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Creating a fast-food-free zone

  • Published Monday, Dec. 9, 2013, at 12 a.m.

Fast-food outlets near schools could put your kids on the fast track to obesity – and poorer school performance. And that’s particularly true for kids who live in urban areas with fast-food restaurants that are closer than grocery stores with fresh produce. It also disproportionately affects kids without resources who, understandably, opt for incredibly unhealthy but filling $1 meals.

Despite tough-to-overcome obstacles to making healthier food choices, you gotta help your kids before they find themselves on the slippery slope to becoming unhealthy adults and everyone ends up footing an impossibly high health-care bill.

So here’s our four-point plan to help kids become healthy, happy adults.

Parents: Learning how to make smart food choices starts at home. Get your kids into healthy food by involving them in shopping and cooking. Provide healthy, tasty school lunches, and urge them to choose well in the cafeteria or when eating out.

Kids: Be a leader, not a follower. If all of your friends hang out at the local fast-food restaurant and you want to hang with them, opt for no-sugar-added yogurt and fruit, salad-based wraps or grilled chicken and sugar-free drinks.

School administrators: Introduce nutrition education into every classroom – kids want to feel good, look good, do good. Help them understand that a $1 meal is a down payment on a long line of painful disabilities that’ll cost them, big time, in the future.

Communities: You have a drug-free zone around the school. Why not a fast-food-free zone too?

Preventing falls

Falling in love, falling asleep, falling into place – sometimes the idea of falling is, as Martha Stewart often says, “a very good thing.” But for more than 33 percent of folks age 65 and older who take a tumble each year, it can cause big trouble. For example, almost all hip breaks are from falls, and 20 percent of people who break their hip die within a year of the injury.

The most common reasons for falls are weak leg muscles; problems with gait, caused perhaps by arthritis or foot and back problems; and dizziness when standing, triggered by high or low blood pressure, inner ear or neurological problems, and medication reactions can trigger that as well. Impaired vision also can contribute.

Fortunately, if you’re one of the 35 million North American seniors with a balance problem, there’s a lot you (or your loved ones) can do to prevent falls.

• Half of all falls take place at home, so do a house check. Remove or correct any hazards, such as loose area rugs and uneven floors; upgrade lighting to eliminate dark corners or poorly lit stairs; put hand rails on stairs; and ID trouble areas in the bathroom.

• Improve your balance. Develop a muscle-strengthening exercise routine (it can be chair-based), start walking 30 minutes a day, play ping-pong or practice tai chi.

• Talk to your doctor about your medications and side effects that may make you wobbly. You might want to adjust or change meds.

• And take care when using walkers or wheelchairs, especially when getting in or out of them.

Coffee and diabetes

Two of your favorite coffee shops (hint: Seattle and doughnuts) sell North Americans more than 12 million cups of Joe a day. And they’re far from your only source: We’re drinking 400 million cups daily. At that rate, you’d think every man, woman and child were chugging the brew. But only about 54 percent of those 18 and older drink coffee every day.

That means many of you are not getting the benefits of coffee – high-test and decaf deliver good things. One 13-year study of 400,000 people ages 50-71 found that drinking three cups daily made folks less likely to die (during the study) of heart and respiratory disease, stroke, injuries and accidents, diabetes and infections. And now there’s news that coffee drinking helps prevent Type 2 diabetes.

Seems for every two cups of caffeinated coffee you drink daily (no added sugar or sweeteners, coffee creamers or whole milk), your risk of Type 2 diabetes falls 12 percent. Decaf drinkers reduce their risk by 11 percent. But you can’t just sip your way around Type 2 diabetes. The best benefits come to nonsmokers (so get help stopping, if you smoke) and people who aren’t overweight or obese.

So, combine your daily coffee habit with physical activity (go for 10,000 steps a day) and a diet that includes nine servings of fruits and veggies a day, 100 percent whole grains and lean protein (salmon, ocean trout and skinless poultry). Then that after-dinner espresso or decaf will really help you get healthier.

Tattoo removal

When Johnny Depp and Winona Rider parted ways, Depp reworked one tat to read “Wino Forever.” When Geena Davis split with first husband Renny, her tattoo redo showed up as the Denny’s logo. But if you’re going for a clean sweep of an old tattoo, fasten your seatbelt. Mark Wahlberg decided to set an example for his two oldest kids and brought them along to his more than 20 laser-powered tat-removal sessions. “It’s like getting burned with hot bacon grease. Hopefully that will deter them.”

The number of tat removals in the U.S. hit 100,000 in 2011, according to the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, up from around 86,000 in 2010. And every year should see thousands more. That comes as no surprise; a Harris poll found 1 in 8 American adults with tattoos regrets getting one. As someone once said, “A tattoo is a permanent reminder of a temporary feeling.”

The most popular method of tattoo removal uses lasers (dermabrasion and surgery are the other alternatives). That’s because in the right hands (a board certified, licensed dermatologist or plastic surgeon) colors can be zapped away using various laser densities, and effective after-treatment minimizes scarring.

So our advice? Think (twice) before you ink. It seems the most common problem associated with having toxins etched into your skin is how to get rid of them. You might want to consider veggie dye ink. Your tat artist may have to special order it for you, but it can be removed much less painfully.

Pain reliever and ED

A recent study of 80,000 middle-age men reports that more than 35 percent of those who regularly took NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen) had erectile dysfunction. But only 24 percent of those not taking the meds had ED. That surprised researchers who expected easing inflammation with an NSAID would relieve pain and reduce troubles with ED since inflammation in the arteries can cause erection problems. So we got to thinking: What can you do to ease aches and pains, reduce inflammation and dodge ED?

1. Stop eating red meat and any foods with added sugars or sugar syrups; they clog your arteries, and that can lead to ED.

2. Eat only 100 percent whole grains, fish (salmon) that’s loaded with inflammation-quelling omega-3 fatty acids and maybe take 900 IU supplement of DHA omega-3 a day (we like it from algal oil).

3. Get at least 30 minutes of added physical activity a day (head for that 10,000 steps a day; remember 10 minutes of aerobic exercise equals 100 steps).

4. De-stress with 10 minutes of meditation daily.

Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.

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